[Linux-aus] Proposed Changes to OSDClub Organisation

Ben Dechrai ben at dechrai.com
Fri Jul 26 17:22:33 EST 2013

Hi Linux Australia,

I'd like to share with you an email that I sent to the members of the
Open Source Developers' Club earlier today. If you have any questions
about this, please feel free to contact the OSDClub Executive at
exec at osdc.com.au, or me directly at ben at dechrai.com. If you wish, you
may also join the OSDC Talk mailing list [0] and contribute directly to
the conversation.

I, and the rest of the OSDClub Executive, welcome any thoughts and
feedback you may have.

Ben Dechrai

[0] https://securityprotected.net/lists/listinfo/talk.osdc.com.au

Dear OSDClub Member,

I write to you today to discuss a matter of significant importance that
will affect the administrative aspects of the club that supports our
annual conference, but emphasise that there is no proposal for the
conference to change.

The proposal, in short, is that the Linux Australia council and OSDC
Executive should unite in some way in order to reduce duplication and
fragmentation of effort. This would affect the organisational structures
only - the conferences and other efforts and projects of the two
organisations would continue without any changes, including in
particular both the Open Source Developers' Conference and the
linux.conf.au conference.


As you may be aware, since before the last conference, there has been
discussion about the shared and overlapping duties of the Linux
Australia council and OSDC Executive. The two organisations have very
similar goals and purposes, and it seems inefficient to continue this. I
understand all too well, however, that there are a great number of
concerns that must be addressed in order to ensure that the community at
large can only benefit from any arrangement.

I had an opportunity to meet with Joshua Hesketh, president of Linux
Australia, earlier this year, to discuss the options, concerns and risks
involved in any joining of forces, whatever form that might take, and he
indicated that the Linux Australia Council would support this in principle.

I would like to iterate the aspects of the conversation, as well as the
conversations that have occurred between the OSDConf executive committee.

For the purposes of clarity, OSDClub refers to the incorporated entity,
the club, which provides administrative services to the community;
OSDConf refers to the annual, volunteer-run conference.

*Similarity of Conferences*

There has been reasonable concern voiced that having OSDConf and LCA
(Linux Conf Australia) under one banner may cause one or the other to
become dwarfed or even at risk of dissolution, given the relative
similarities of topic each conference focuses on. If such a situation
were to happen, I would be fairly certain that OSDConf would be the
conference to go, given LCA's larger industry recognition, sponsor
support and attendance. This eventuality is something the OSDClub
executive would not risk for a number of reasons.

OSDConf has, since the first event, been a grass-roots developers'
conference priced to make minimal profit while maintaining a low
financial barrier to entry for delegates. To this day, I don't believe
the ticket price has increased more than the cost of living, and is
testament to the dedication all our previous conference organisers have
had in providing a high-value industry conference that almost anyone can
attend. LCA, while still being a fraction of the price of most industry
conferences, is aimed at the more professional end of the market. I,
personally, feel that losing a conference like OSDConf would be severely
detrimental to the open source community in Australia.

In the past few years, there has also been a noticeable convergence of
purpose when comparing the two conferences. LCA has been moving slowly
towards development related topics, and OSDConf towards more systems and
technology specific, and while neither should abstain from either end of
the spectrum, there is merit in steering each towards maintaining
divergence and allowing each conference to maintain its own identity.
Regardless of the decision around joining LA, the executive committee
will be asking future conference organisers to focus on our dev roots. I
am told that LCA 2014 have been given a similarly strong encouragement
to push for more systems/technology talks again.

To further encourage separation of the conferences, and with the added
benefit of not increasing the load on the Linux Australia Council, if
OSDClub were to come under the umbrella of LA, it would be based on an
understanding that a conference selection and support committee be
formed to take ownership of future OSDConf events. This would,
essentially, be the equivalent of our current executive committee, with
no legal obligations or office bearer responsibilities. The basis on
which people join this new committee would be a future discussion.

Finally, we would encourage the timing of OSDConf to move to a time less
conflicting with LCA; creating more temporal space between conferences
will reduce the conflict some people find in choosing which conference
to attend. Serendipitously, the NZ-based OSDConf this year is running at
the end of October.

*OSDClub's Money*

OSDClub had a bank balance of approximately AU$25,000 before the start
of the organisation of OSDC2013, and an anticipated concern is that the
money, which is intended for OSDClub related activities, would be added
to the LA pool.

OSDClub offers financial support through a grants and funding programme
which, to date, has supported the Melbourne PHP Users Group, Melbourne
Perl Mongers, Blue Hackers, BarCampMelbourne and a few others. The
astute amongst you will notice that many of these are run by, or have
been run by people closely associated with OSDClub. The simple reason
for this is mind-share; most people don't think about OSDClub when
seeking financial support of community events.

Linux Australia also has a similar programme, and while they also
contend with the issue that there are lots of people who don't know
there are funds available, the issue is markedly emphasised for OSDClub.

It's my suggestion, therefore, that our funds would actually benefit the
community more effectively if they were added to the pool used by Linux
Australia, whose programme is more prominent and known about.

*Special Interest Groups (SIGs)*

In addition to providing a funding programme, OSDClub also offers itself
as an umbrella organisation to a number of groups. The Melbourne Perl
Mongers and Melbourne PHP Users Group both disbanded their incorporated
organisation status as came under OSDClub's banner for much the same
reasons as OSDClub now proposes to reform under LA.

If this proposal goes ahead, the OSDClub Executive will work with LA and
the respective conveners of these SIGs to ensure suitable support and
protection is still provided to them.

*The Process of Reforming under Linux Australia*

For the purposes of administrative and financial simplicity, we are
proposing that OSDClub simply disbands its legal status as an entity. In
such a scenario, Consumer Affairs Victoria requires that any remaining
funds after disbanding be gifted to another organisation with similar
values and goals. It would be a trivial matter for us to transfer the
funds to Linux Australia.

The downside with this is that there is no contractual obligation on
either side for any agreement. It would be remiss of me to ignore this
fact, notwithstanding that I personally hold that there is more than
enough goodwill in the community for this not to be an issue.

Joshua Hesketh's indication of Linux Australia Council's support in
principle included their concern of additional overheads in terms of
time required and responsibilities assumed if OSDClub reformed under
their banner. The major addition in work for them would be any
involvement in managing the conference selection or supporting the
conference organisers, and I would suggest that, in addition to the
aforementioned provisions for OSDClub's SIGs, forming a separate OSDConf
selection and support committee be a condition on us disbanding and
allocating our remaining funds to LA.

There are finer details to be ironed out, such as infrastructure.

*Next Steps*

For now, I would like to open a discussion between the members. For the
purposes of OSDClub Membership, any person on the announce mailing list
is deemed to be a member, so in order to facilitate discussions, I have
created a member mailing list and subscribed you to it. That is the list
to which this email has been sent, and you are able to post to (simply
by replying to this email). Non members may not post, and all join
requests are moderated, so we do not anticipate any spam getting in.

So now it's over to you. We are here to ensure OSDClub and OSDConf
continue to serve your needs and the needs of your communities, and are
looking for any feedback, concerns, suggestions or other constructive

*Ooh - New Mailing List!*

Please note that we don't have any usage guidelines for the members
mailing list, and while we have put in place mechanisms to stop spam, we
can't stop you posting to the list about other topics. I guess this is
something we can monitor over time and refine. If you become overwhelmed
with the emails to this list, please email exec at osdc.com.au to see if
there's anything we can do in terms of policy to refine the list's usage.

You may also edit your subscription options to receive digest emails or
unsubscribe below.

For the purposes of OSDClub Membership, any person on the announce
mailing list is *still* deemed to be a member. Removing yourself from
the members list will not affect your ability to vote in any SGMs or AGMs.

Thanks, in advance, for your input in to this process.

Ben Dechrai
President, Open Source Developers' Club Inc

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